...and it's over--Aitor Gonzalez rode a magnificent time trial, erasing his 1' 08" deficit behind Roberto Heras, to win both the final stage and the Golden Jersey of the overall winner. As much as I'd like to have seen Heras win his second Vuelta a Espana, especially after the great and selfless effort he put in to support Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, I think Aitor Gonzalez deserved the victory, as the best all-around rider. Heras, arguably the world's best climber, has improved his time-tial immensely, and he put in a respectable ride today, but he will still need to bring it up another notch if he wants to succeed Lance Armstrong when the 4-time TdF champion finally decides to end his reign!
The Vuelta brought excitement to the end, as all three podium spots changed on the final day, unlike the Tour de France that was a nearly foregone conclusion from halfway through. I was also glad to see Joseba Beloki on the podium, but it was unfortunate that he took over third place only due to Oscar Sevilla's major mechanical problems (he had to switch bikes twice in just the first few kilometers). Beloki is the first rider to take the podium in two major Grand Tours (out of three--the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France--where he finished second this July, and the Vuelta a Espana) in the same season. Few riders have shown the ability to remain on top of their game like that consistently through the long season. Beloki may never WIN a Grand Tour, but he certainly deserves recognition as one of the premiere stage race riders in the world!
Inspiring! I think I'll go for a ride....